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24 Russell Square 


First published in November Mcmxli 

by Faber and Faber Limited 

24 Russell Square London W.C. 1 

Second Impression December Mcmxli 

Printed in Great Britain by 

R. MacLehose and Company Limited 

The University Press Glasgow 

All rights reserved 




2 2 NOV 176r 




In the summer of 1929, when 338171 Aircraft- 
man T. E. Shaw, R.A.F., was generally known 
to be at Cattewater, Plymouth, a certain woman 
living in South Devon desired greatly to have 
'Lawrence of Arabia' sit at her table. 'Do persuade 
him to come' she begged of a mutual acquaintance. 
Shaw was translating Homer — 'sweating every 
spare hour I get over old Odysseus, a new version 
of whose adventures I am producing (on a cash 
basis) for a very rich American. Hope he likes it 
better than I do — but the cash will be superb when 
it is all over.' At that time meeting new faces was 
for him worse than riding at night into the glare 
of headlamps, then never dropped for courtesy's 
sake. Even his friends would not let 'Lawrence of 
Arabia' alone; so he could seldom lose that Frank- 
enstein consciousness. Being extremely sensitive 
and kindly, he was always being with his friends 
what they expected him to be, reflecting their in- 
terest in 'Lawrence of Arabia'. He was thereby 
much self-entangled. On this particular occasion 
the acquaintance 'was persuasive. 'They're awfully 
nice people, I'm sure you'll like tlioui.' At last 


Shaw agreed to go, and to a dinner party. 'I don't 
think I ever want to meet a famous man again,' 
declared the hostess afterwards. 'He never once 
looked at me, or at any other guest. He refused to 
shake hands. I felt a perfect fool. He said nothing. 
Tie refused to eat. "Hors d'oeuvre?" "No thank 
you." "Soup?" "No thank you." "Sherry?" "No 
thank you." "Some water?" "No thank you." 
"Fish?" "No thank you." "But surely you're 
going to eat grouse?" "May I just have a little fried 
|)otato, please?" "But you must have some of this 
delicious bird, Mr. Shaw." "Really, no thank 
you." "But don't you ever eat normal food?" 
"Frequently." "What do you like, as a rule?" 
Shaw began to feel it was funny. He told the truth. 
' "Tea and wads." "Whatever are wads, Mr. 
Shaw?" He explained, sitting motionless in chair, 
hands folded inertly on lap. "I am sorry we 
haven't a canteen here, Mr. Shaw, since so obvi- 
ously you seem to prefer your own food." His face 
gol. heavier and more stupid, and I was very glad 
when lu; got up and went.' The story as the good 
woman tells it is of course a self-criticism; which 
one day sh(^ may perceive. 

A \\\\si yc^ars earlier 'T. E. Lawrence' would per- 
haps hav(^ remained less silent or monosyllabic. 
One of liis friends tells how, at another party, a 
somcwiial; pretentious lady was telling anecdotes, 
most of them about titlcul people to whom she re- 


ferred by nick-names and pet-names. Seeing that 
her listener was not interested, she leaned forward 
and said, T fear my conversation does not interest 
Colonel Lawrence very much?' Lawrence bowed 
from the hips, and murmured impassively, 'It does 
not interest him at all. ' He intended the reply as a 
joke, a sort of truthful joke — while realizing it 
couldn't possibly come off as a joke in that atmo- 
sphere. In those days, soon after the Armistice, his 
power had no direction, and was used directly, per- 
sonally, often scornfully; he was quicksilver; later 
he became impersonal, shutting off his power with 
uneasy people, conserving his energy, becoming 
inert. Later still, when he ceased to strain and had 
found his poise in the ranks of the R. A.F., he grew 
less self-insubstantial, and easily sure of himself. 
No longer did he have, as it were, to unscrew his 
eyes to look at anyone in conversation; he no 
longer used the retina's sensitivity to discern his 
companion, as he gazed downwards with unfo- 
cussed sight. He held his head up, and one felt his 
sure impersonal strength, constructively critical, 
clear, understanding every intricacy of human im- 
pulse; because he understood the intricacies of him- 
self. 'I am a chameleon,' he once said to me. Every 
child is a chameleon, in that sense, taking colour 
from its surroundings, absorbing ideas, sayings, 
attitudes, from its elders. So are all young mam- 
mals, birds, and even fish. Only those who fiav(; not 


needed to strive to maintain their life or integrity 
remain static. Absence of sensitivity is stupidity. 
Those fast in a tradition which is merely un- 
realized habit, among men; sheep, bullocks, among 
the lov^er mammals. 

When first I knew^ 'T. E. Lav^rrence' he was in 
the second stage of his post-war self. He had found 
his poise, but was not always sure of himself vnth 
others. I was excited at the thought of meeting 
him; for I knew, instantly, after reading the open- 
ing paragraph of Revolt in the Desert, serialized in 
The Daily Telegraph in the early spring of 1924, 
that we had similarities of sight and ear. His letters 
to me, beginning with a long criticism of Tarka 
from Karachi in 1928, had confirmed my earHer 
b(^]i(vf. He was coming across Dartmoor from Ply- 
riiouth to the cottage where I lived in the village of 
Ham, near the coast of north-west Devon. Know- 
ing tliat he did not smoke, I had hidden my pipe 
and tobacco jar; not because he might disapprove, 
hiiL because I was always wanting to give up smok- 
nig, knowing that it was poison for my nature and 
IfMnperament. I was glad to be able, with authority, 
U) ask my wife to give my pipes and tobacco jar to 
l.lic TK^xt tramp who might come along. 

I ''or lunc;li Loetitia had prepared a salad of let- 
Lucr, tomato, onions, nuts, apples, and other fruit, ch(M\s(;, plums, figs, cream, cake, and choco- I Iiiid i(>ad in RoberL Graves' book that T. E. 


disliked set meals, and was happiest wandering 
about a room, taking an apple, and in short, pleas- 
ing himself. 'And quite right, too,' said Loetitia. 
'I think everyone should do just what they want to 
do.' So apples were put on the shelf, the solitary 
book-case, the window ledges, and even in the 
wash-house. Our small son Windles, then three 
and a half years old, went round v^ith us, approv- 
ing this unusual distribution of apples. 

The long letter from India, sent to Edward 
Garnett first, had been a surprise: though I had 
known, without exactly formulating the thought, 
that one day such a thing would happen. One morn- 
ing, early in 1928, as I had been in bed watching 
the rain blurring the one small vdndow of the bed- 
room, and feeling there was nothing worth getting 
up for, my wife brought with the tea a large regis- 
tered letter. On the envelope was Edward Gar- 
nett's handwriting. Inside were two foolscap sheets 
lined with a minute and meticulous hand, smaller 
than ordinary typewriting. The writing was ex- 
tremely neat, and the body of the letter was filled 
with numbers referring to the pages and lines of — 
good heavens, Tarka the Otter \ I turned to the end 
of page four — ^there must have been a thousand 
words or more on each page — and saw the signa- 
ture, slurred a httle as though (I thought) the 
writer were always in slight dread of the spirit of 
autograph hunling, and all it im})li(>d in lilr. 'It's 


from Lawrence of Arabia,' I said to Loetitia. 'I 
knew it would happen! When I read the first para- 
graph of his Revolt in the Desert I knew we 
were ahke, mentally, and one day we should be 
friends.' I felt firmer within myself, more self- 
strong; for generally I was ^vithout self-assurance, 
owing to loneliness and the need constantly to hold 
to my ideas in a community which did not accept 
those ideas or beliefs. No work was done that day 
in the little writing room built of 'wrecking' wood, 
mud-mortar, and small shale stones — annex to the 
cottage built half a century before by the only vil- 
lage murderer known to local history. (The village 
constable nagged the old cobbler so persistently 
that one day, suddenly, he struck at the constable's 
licad with a reaping hook: and died in prison, the 
night before he was due to be hanged.) Instead I 
lo()k(!d at my printed books as though with new 
eyes, and in a renewed zest posted off my only copy 
ol' 17,e Old Stag to 338171 A/c T. E. Shaw, R.A.F., 
Karachi, with marginal notes of how this and that 
idea ajid detail had been gleaned or grafted; how 
this sentence, like some of his own, had the Con- 
ladiaii aural rhythm reinforced by a sharper, 
in()(l(;ni fre(!dom. of sight; and that my work was 
Snow don to his Everest. His reply again confirmed 
what I dai-ed scarcely to hope in the instant of 
glancing at l\\o. oncMiing paragraph of Revolt in the 
Ihsiil: that tlic IVi(vndslii|) or coivipanionship 1 had 

always been seeking in life, so far in vain, was pos- 
sible. That friendship would not be based on the 
charitable compromises of give-and-take which 
everyone declared to be the only foundation ; it 
would not be built on tolerance of dissimilarity: 
but on the clarity of equal thought and sight. 'T. E. 
Lawrence' was abnormal only because he thought 
quickly and surely, because he was a man who 
could see plain every effect arising from a cause — 
as the sun saw both cause and effect, without 
shadow or obscurity. 

A short while afterwards, it seemed, a reply 
came from a fort in Waziristan. 
^'Now a confession. In the R.A.F. we live in a 
communism which is voluntary and real. So soon 
as the old stag arrived he disappeared. I haven't an 
idea who has him, out of the seven hundred fellows 
of us in camp. He will infallibly return, after a few 
days, or after many days; nothing ever goes wholly 
astray, nor is anything wasted. They are like 
townees on a desert island, longing to taste all the 
book fruit they see on the shelves of all the shops, 
but afraid to taste, without some guide to tell them 
what's what.' 

'Ah ha! Come here, Loetitia! Doesn't matter 
about the milk boiling over, take it off, then it 
won't. Listen. Do you remember where he criti- 
cized the phrase, in the chapter where Tarka was 
in the; I'en by Taw Head on Dartmoor, Soiiglig/i/ 

1 5 

carne silent, with the remark that it "tripped him 
up on his face in the bog"? Songhght for dawn, 
coined by Francis Thompson, is a lovely word, so 
I used it there. Well, look, here he talks about 
shelves of all the shops on a desert island! Don't you 

'Yes, dear. Only I don't quite know what it's all 
about. Oh bother, I can smell the milk — ' 

'Oh damn the milk. I — er — oh, sorry I dis- 
turbed you. But should the baby have milk so hot? 
Aren't the good bacteria killed by boiling?' 

'It's milk for you, actually.' 

'I really don't want it.' 

'Bother. You asked me specially to w^arm it for 

'Warm it, yes, but not hoil it. Boiled milk loses 
all its nourishment. Never boil milk. Sixty de- 
grees centigrade — ' 

Locdtia retired hurt, once again, that in my 
sollishness I never appeared to appreciate her selfless 
labour; I retired irritated, once again, that she 
iKwcr appeared to appreciate the impersonal things 
oF the mind. Her favourite reading was in The 
Happy Magazine, Punch, and The Humorist; the 
books she was urged to read, from the little writing 
room shelves, she read dutifully; and did not dis- 
<;UKS them. At times I was remorseful for forcing so 
rruich on her; I knew I interrupted her happy 
rhytlvni of housework, shopping, and working for 



husband and child. Loetitia vs^as always being called 
to listen to this poem by Blake or Shelley; to hear 
on the wireless this music by Delius or Wagner or 
Cesar Franck, at any hour of the day or night — so 
different from the easy, careless life she had knovs^n 
with her brothers, before a friendless war-haunted 
young man had stirred her pity and protectiveness. 
^ 'Being almost book-blind, themselves, any guide 
is vs^elcome. So they assume that all my books are 
eatable. I suffer, once in a vs^ay, as novs^; but gener- 
ally I'm delighted that they should find me of use. 
I like these fellows enormously. We are really the 
same kind of creature or vs^ould have been if I'd had 
a natural life, and not a mort of extravagant ex- 
perience — and the nearer I can creep back tov\^ards 
them, the safer I feel. They give one a root in the 
ground. ... 

^'The Arab business was a freak in my liviiig; and 
if I did the vs^onders they ascribe to me, then, it 
was vs^holly by accident, for in normal times I'm 
[)lumb ordinary. I don't believe the yarns they tell. 
Ojily it seems conceited to refuse to accept public 
o[)inion about oneself.' 

1 knevs^, ah yes, I knew, hovs^ he must have suf- 
I'er-c^d, lost energy, by being with the people vs^hose 
I HI lids were made up of 'public opinion'. That 
gli.islly, white-sepulchral public opinion! Death to 
\.\n' artist, if oiie could not escape;. I knew what he 
liiid been through: lor in thos(! (lays, of the d(M;iidc 

H 17 W.C.I . 

after the Armistice, it was always a struggle to be 
oneself; relations and acquaintances had almost 
persuaded one into believing that one vv^as wrong, 
warped, morbid, neurotic, etc. 'Your so-called 
writing is merely an excuse for being idle' my 
father had declared, and forbidden me to enter his 
house ever again. (It was later that I developed 
sympathy for my father, who, himself a sensitive, 
had been exhausted by the frustration inherent in 
his life: also he had been badly shaken by a bomb- 
explosion in the last year of the Great War.) The 
nicest old gentleman I knew was my father-in-law; 
but even we had little in common. 'Humph, my 
son-in-lav\r's an ass' he had said, on finishing the 
last page of The Pathway. And that, indeed, was 
the only comment ever heard from any of my im- 
mediate circle, on the various books I had vv^ritten. 
So most of the conversation between us was either 
stammered, halting, or delivered as a monologue 
of explosive intensity. 

In other words, I had yet to 'find' myself among 
others and so to create the effect I desired. 

An ex-Master of Otter Hounds had sent me a 
letter beginning, T write to warn you that your 
projected book on the life of an otter is not only 
unnecessary, since the field has been adequately 
covered already, and the day of the pretentious 
amateur in sport has gone.' This sportsman added, 
'] won't bhslxn- your ears by telling you w^hat cer- 


tain members of the Crowhurst pack said on read- 
ing something purporting to be about an otter in a 
magazine by you.' (I wrote and thanked him for 
wrhat w^as in effect a helpful criticism of minor 
points, and received in reply a long and conciliatory 
letter full of good facts, including an account of an 
otter drowning a hound in Ireland, after a day-long 
hunt, which gave me a lovely climax.) 

In those days, living in a remote part of England, 
on a few shillings a vs^eek, in a labourer's cottage, 
bearded, and wrriting books w^hich no one read, 
emphasized sohtariness to oneself: and on the rare 
occasions when I found myself in other people's 
houses I often heard myself suddenly inventing, 
from sheer nervousness, in order to end a period of 
uneasiness, statements of a startling nature. Those 
sudden spurts of invention w^ere what are called 
lies. They were made always a year or two ahead of 
their materialization. One was that Galsworthy had 
vnritten to me about my books; then it was Hardy; 
then Arnold Bennett had asked me to dine with 
him; then Lawrence of Arabia had written to me; 
then I had won the Hawthornden Prize. Some of 
th(! shots w^ent vnde, and may be still (I hope not) 
hanging over my hfe in space — such as having 
fiilJcuj off Bideford Bridge, then being widened, at 
mid night on my racing motor-cycle, w^hich had 
viiiiislied in sand. 

^J'llad I kno^vn you were so oslablishod a writer 


I'd never have had the cheek to wnrite down my 
'prentice ideas about the book. By the care and 
passion of the text I'd assumed you vs^ere a beginner , 
half in love vs^ith his first effort, and probably no'w 
heart-broken at its failure to come anyv^here near 
the perfection dreamed of: — I'll never forget the 
despair vsdth vv^hich I read my Seven Pillars in 1923, 
after forgetting it for tvs^o years. It 'wbls incredibly 
unlike -what I'd thought my talents (of w^hich I'd 
had too good an opinion) w^ould bring forth, that I 
then and there svs^ore I'd never try again. If there 'd 
been any redeemable feature . . , but the whole 
thing was unw^holesome. 

^'Back to Tarka; the worst thing about the -war- 
gcncration of introspects is that they can't keep off 
their blooming selves. As you saw, I'm glad to say, 
l)y the length and elaboration of my remarks, the 
book did move me, and gratify me, profoundly. It 
was the real stuff. I shouldn't, if I -were you, 
atteinpt to re-do it; the non-successes, the gritty 
stuir, of real people, are altogether topping as ex- 
a in pies of ho-w things come and grow; it's like 
s(;iil[)ture: the brokenness of the Venus de Milo is 
the: main virtue of that sentimental but very lovely 
work. I like best of all the books in which fallible 
men have burst themselves trying to be better than 
tliey can be. Tarka, to anyone who's tried to -write, 
is a Lcichnical delight, all the more perfect for being 
ini|)(>r]"cct, \\en) and tlicre. If you write it out again, 


and make a rounded and gracious thing of it, you'll 
rob us of the object lesson, and deprive us of what 
might have been a new and very lovely book, on 
another subject. . 

^'I wonder what you'll do about money. Tarka 
v^ill not have made much, and the more carefully 
you write the less you are likely to earn. Do you 
notice how the writers who are very widely sold 
are so often careless v^^riters? Dickens, I'm thinking 
of, and Tolstoi, and Balzac: though Balzac rewrote all 
his novels in proof, but he vv^asn't thinking about 
their form, so much as of the forms of the char- 
acters in them. I vsdsh I could think clearly enough 
about all the writers of the world, and see if it's 
more than blind chance which makes one seem 
good and another bad: if only there was an absolute 
somewhere: the final standard by which everything 
could be measured. At present we have ever so 
many surveys of literature: but they aren't so much 
surveys as sentimental journeys across it. For a sur- 
vey you must have a measured base: and instead of 
that we have just opinions and opinions. 

^'. . . You say the Pathway is unhappy stuff. 
Well, so is all my writing. Let not us impotents be 
shy of our impotencies, behind the licked envelopes 
of letters.' 

Shortly after this, the llawthornden Prize was 
i!iv('M to Tarkn^ and life for rue Ix^i-ati to charii-e. 



l'"/Vcn so, l\\e tnitli as T saw and tried to utter it 



seemed as exceptionable as all my previous state- 
m.ents, fictitious or otherwise. People seemied to 
live in all sorts of shells, coverings, and crannies: 
a^vay from the plain open sky. Or Tvas the preten- 
sion or Tvarp in myself? 

Meanwhile the publishers of Tarka had asked me 
to send a travel book by a young American writer 
named Eldon Rutter to T. E. Shaw. 
CJ 'Thank you for Rutter's books on Mecca and 
Medina [wrote T. E.J. They are most modestly 
good: very human, and fair, and fresh. The entire 
absence of great-mindedness is very charming. I 
wonder w^ho he is? Some very queer fish, probably, 
who has lived for a long while on the wrong side 
of the world. 

CJ 'You'll laugh to hear that I still pick up Tarka 
oi'ten, read a few pages, and lay it down. I find it 
1 voids more than I thought, even at first: and what 
I snid the first time w^as "pemmican": a variety, 
I'm told, of pressed beef . 

CJ'Tlie public pressure on you to write another 
book b(^lbre you feel inclined to think of a pen 
.seriously, must be horrid.' 

ll; was now more than a year since T. E. had 
lirsl; written. I did not send him any further books, 
not wanl:'mg to give him possible embarrassment, 
slioiild li(! tliink them poor, and not like to say so. 
1 1(^ wrote s(^vcral letters: arul after being moved to 
IVIii-anshii, was being s(miI; liornc" to lingiand again. 


'I am a creature of habit, and to change station 
upsets my mind,' he had written from that small 
fort in Waziristan. His 'news- value' had nearly 
driven him homeless again; the evil 'news-value', 
which is parasitic on all so-called fame or achieve- 
ment, had, years before, 'splashed' the 'sensational' 
fact one morning that Colonel T. E. Lawrence 
was hiding in the Royal Air Force as an aircraft- 
man. One of his sergeants, recognizing him, 
had sold the 'story' to the paper for fifty pounds. 
So Shaw had been turned out of the R.A.F. 
He re-enlisted in the Tank Corps. After two 
years he had been permitted to return to the 
Air Force, but on condition that his term of ser- 
vice would be terminated instantly 'should that 
sort of thing happen again'. (Certain senior R.A.F. 
officers should have educated themselves more fit- 
tingly to understand the world, and in particular 
the world based upon the manufactured lies of 
newspapers, all produced to make money; they 
should have realized that T. E. Shaw was not re- 
sponsible for the great bites that the rapacious vul- 
turcs of the lower middle-class press took out of 
tlie remnants of the private hfe of this noble Eng- 
lislimavi.) And then 'that sort of thing' had hap- 
pened again, while Shaw was in India, sent there 
l,() be out of th(! way of publicity. A Sunday news- 
piipcM-, on the fJinisic^st hearsay — a mere whilTtothe 
viih.nre — had splaslied a story, tlie sort ol sensa- 


tional news that is created in the news-editor's 
office, about 'Colonel Lawrence's mystery pres- 
ence' on the North- West Frontier. What was he 
doing there? Why did he disappear into the 
bazaars, and make journeys into the desert? It so 
happened that I was in that newspaper office 
two days before that story was published with a 
letter from T. E. Shaw in my pocket: had I known 
what was being prepared, I would have done my 
best to spike the story, for Edward Garnett had 
told me that Shaw was always dreading, indeed he 
had a neurosis about, publicity. The story appeared, 
with what are called 'repercussions' in the foreign 
press, particularly in Afghanistan, between which 
coimtry and the India office relations at that time 
were 'delicate'; and Shaw was brought home. 
^'They have posted me to Plymouth: so if ever 
tlK! frost breaks (Brrrr . . . Ughhhh) a motor-bike 
will disturb Skirr Cottage. A horrible bike: but so 
beautiful in its owner's eyes and heart! 
•I'll, will be comic, our meeting: I am icy cold, and 
v(;ry I'^nglish, and correct. Sober as judges used to 
])(!. However, all the more reason for meeting a 
wild man. At least your reputation won't scare me 
olT. A bas all the Hawthorndens. Hawthorn, for- 
sooili! Den, forsooth! 

•I' It will not be for a while. A new camp takes 
leai-uing: (vspecially for me, who am always uneasy 
with a ti(;w cr-owd.' 


It was February, 1929. (He was spending a few 
days' leave in London at the house in West- 
minster where he had written part of The Seven 
Pillars of Wisdom, soon after the war, when some- 
times he had worked all night, living in an attic 
room lent by a friend and prowling about the 
streets of London at all hours, burning away pre- 
sent life for the recreation of scenes and turmoils 
in the mental glare of ancient Arabian sunlight. 
Taking fertility out of himself, and putting noth- 
ing back, to adapt a farming metaphor. It was not 
so much the physical action during the war that 
exhausted him, but the several intensive writings 
and re-writings of his book: the prolonged un- 
natural excitation and insufficient food. For while 
after the physical action in Arabia his life was 
empty, after the imaginative action his mind was 
empty — nothing to do, nothing to hope for. Ex- 
cept to be left alone, forgotten, his ambition to be 
doing happy-easy things every day, eating and 
sleeping, the squirrel cage of the brain at rest.) 
^'I am waiting for long evenings and warmer 
days, to come and see you. Life is very long, and I 
like to stick very close to a new camp, at first, learn- 
ing it.' 

1 1, was April. I had not written to him mean- 
wiiile, lest a letter seem to be implying demands on 
h i u 1 . 

IVIay |)ass(;(I, and niidsu ninicr- day in .lune, 


days growing shorter, the hay cut in my hilltop 
field; and then a letter in the famihar black Indian 
ink. Being reluctant to read it, I asked Loetitia to 
open the envelope, which she did carefully, with a 
knitting needle. 

^'Any chance of your being at Skirr Cottage on 
Sunday next, June 30th? Apparently! am to be free 
all that day (free days are like rubies to me, now) 
and if it happened to be fine I might dash across, 
arriving before or about noon, and leaving after 

July the First, anniversary of the opening battle 
of the Somme ('A Real British Victory at Last', 
had cried the London papers. 60,000 British casual- 
tics and nearly all the rest back in the old front line 
before midday, says history) and on July 2 a letter. 

^'If it rained at your end as it did here, all yester- 
day, then this letter isn't needed to explain my de- 
fection. Only if the sun shone brilliantly, and your 
hay is made, I must apologise. It was quite impos- 
sible; for pleasure riding. I can ride (at 30) on a wet 
road: but that's transport, not sport. Riding gets 
pleasant in the 40-50 range. 


T. E. S. 

^'Nol. n(>xt week, I think, nor the next. They 
should giv(^ one another try when the chosen Sun- 
day is dud. 

T. E. S.' 

I wrote and asked him if he would be going to 
the R.A.F. display at Hendon, saying also that I 
was going, during the sam.e visit to London, to the 
award of the Hawthornden Prize for that year. It 
was to be given to Siegfried Sassoon for his 
Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man. I offered to take 
T. E. to the R.A.F. show in my car, a new small 
cheap popular model I had bought with part of the 
flush of recent money. He replied that it would not 
be fast enough to get him there and back. 
^'Noon Sat. to midnight Sunday is so short a 
week-end, but it is all we get, without special per- 
mission, and the seeking that sticks in my throat 
... if you see Sassoon to speak to, tell him that his 
book (novel) pleased me: but I'd lose it all for his 
worst poem. 

^' "All Quiet" is the screaming of a feeble man. 
It will not last as long as Tarka, except as a docu- 
ment. Do not distress yourself about "lasting": 
not even our bones do that, except momentarily. 
T think that to last is only to be in doubt longer. ' 

A postscript said he would try and reach the vil- 
lage on July 28, if I would be there. 

In the evening of 21 July the dulcet tones of the foretold a deep depression approaching Ire- 
land and our South- West Coast from the Atlantic. 
'I'o wards midnight the rain began to drive against 
ihc soutlK^rn window ol' the writing room, and I 
Weill, t(J bed saying l.o myscH" thai: he wonld not; 


corae. In the morning it yvas still raining, and I 
thought of the eighty-mile journey from Ply- 
miouthj across Dartmoor in a mist of driving rain, 
and the narro^w twisting roads and lanes, many of 
them untarred, grey slippery surfaces. Neverthe- 
less the tobacco jar Avas put in the cupboard, the 
salad made, and apples prominently placed, as I 
have already told. It rained and it rained ('like 
aught out of a sieve' as the farmer opposite de- 
clared), and I sat in the little built-on room, re- 
writing some of The Village Book scenes while a 
branch of the apple tree outside knocked a bunch 
of" hard green apples on the sheet-iron roof. The 
clock in the church tower a gunshot away (some- 
times in boredom I used to fire at the weathercock, 
just out of damage range) struck twelve times. I 
got up and looked out of the window and v^ith a 
sLait saw a red face under a peaked blue uniform 
cap, intensely blue eyes, short body enclosed in 
glistening black, astride a large nickel-plated motor- 
cycle! slowing in the lane outside. As the bike 
sl.()|)|)cd a rubber foot was put on the ground and 
t\\r. cap peak pushed up slightly. After a swift 
miiUial grin I opened the garden door and ran 
down the steps. He pulled the bike on its stand. 


' 1 1 n llo. 1 had to come. I found myself developing 
a complex ahout it.' 

'So was I. Will you j)ut the bike in the shed?' 


'No, thanks. I must leave at half -past one.' 

'You shall. That's a fine storm suit.' 

'It vt^as designed for mine-svt^eeping during the 
Vt^ar — no longer made.' 

He padded into the cottage. His eyes and head 
moved with noticeable quickness. He was instantly 
alert to what I said, he reacted to my every move- 
ment. He knew what I was going to say before I 
said it. His reflexes were extraordinarily quick and 
sensitive: quicksilver. He did not appear to be a 
man; he was more like a boy, but without a boy's 
lack of freedomi. Was he tall, was he short? It was 
not noticeable. This was not due to having lost my 
head; rather, I had found my head — firm on my 
shoulders. But at the time I did not have these 
thoughts or rather reflections; I formulated them 
later. All I felt at the moment was that, for the first 
time in my life, I was becoming real and strong. 
Usually I was an eye-averting, stammering, exag- 
gerating eccentric; now I was my true, firm self. 

Does all this seem too analytical, too highbrow- 
introspective? It was as though I had cast my 
slough on him, and emerged a fine, cool, poised 
fellow. For this brassy-headed youth seemed to 
liav(! assumed my other self: that self's too-soft 
v()jf;e, shyness, hy])crsensibility. Led through the 
(lafk and damp and rotting rhomboid Ccdled the 
larder (the cottage was under the side of a liill, 
without damp-courses in tlie walls, and was chill 


and gloomy even at midsummer), and through the 
whitewashed prison-cell4ike kitchen, he bobbed 
and bowed and nodded to Gwennie Gammon our 
sixteen-year-old maid, daughter of Tom Gammon 
the mason with whom I had poached many a 
rabbit in the old days. Gwennie with a shy grin 
half got up, murmuring 'How d'you do', and the 
figure encased in glistening black rubber mur- 
mured 'How d'you do' for the second time, and 
after several quick glances of blue eyes and inde- 
cisive turns of yellow-haired head the black figure 
padded swiftly, glidingly, into the cavernous wash- 
house, hung with spider webs on peeling damp 
walls, and accepted help, with many thanks, in the 
pulling off of the mines weeping suit. Then I 
worked the handle of the suction pump, and asked 
him if he would like to wash. 'No, thanks. Yes, I 
will. Thanks. Your own well?' 'Yes.' He washed 
rapidly. 'Towel behind the door.' He set it smooth 
oil the rail after use. On heavy boots he clattered 
iji swiftly, and after trying to wipe those boots 
(th(^y wore dry and polished as though for kit- 
iiisp(X"tion) on the wire mat, moved into the dim 
sitting-room. Windles, the three-and-a-half-year 
old, came to look at him, holding spade in one 
hand and bucket in the other. In the bucket were 
a|)|)l(\s tli(^ child had lalioriously collected from 
wasli-liouse, booksliclf, and window lodge. I did 
riol. need lo explain \]\c )ok(i to the visitor, for he 


had perceived it in the time of the turn of my 
glance from the little boy's face to his own. So no 
words were used, only smiles and nods, and a 
delicate touch, as in blessing, on the little boy's 
head. Loetitia came into the room, rich colour in 
her cheeks as usual when people came to the house. 
She was not shy, it was just her nature^ simple, 
never critical, always natural. We spoke together 
for a few minutes in a flow of happiness while the 
visitor told us that he had left Plymouth shortly 
before nine, the journey taking three hours, rain- 
ing all the time. I asked if he would like to see the 
writing-room, and led the way upstairs, and 
through the bedroom and by the minute verandah 
to the annex built by the poor murderer. 

This had one arm-chair, a William Morris type 
bought second-hand after use in an officers' mess 
during the war. He recognized its origin instantly, 
taking the thought from behind my eyes. He sat 
still in the chair, hands in lap, only the muscles of 
his eyes and mouth moving for the next three- 
quarters of an hour. I sat on the log-box, crudely 
made of American oak, my first grown-up attempt 
at carpentry, and we talked. Only once during that 
time did our eyes meet; his unscrewing themselves, 
as it were, in a struggle of reluctance against deter- 
ini nation to mciot my freer, offered glance. Other- 
vviiso 1 did not look at liini at all, being fully aware 
olirnri with rny (Mil.iro l)ody. 


If this account seem meticulous and over-elab- 
orated, it is because of a desire to recreate the past, 
to make it live again as fully as the limitation of 
"words aUov\^s. I recall part of our conversation. 
'Have you had any Americans calling yet to see the 
greatest living descriptive prose writer in English?' 
This "was slightly shocking; I didn't kno'w w^hat to 
make of it, except to be amiably reticent, non- 
committal. 'You will. And to the first fifty or so 
you'll look very modest and droopingly acquies- 
cent, and you'll murmur a mixture of thanks and 
self-deprecation: and to the fifty-first you'll prob- 
ably say "Balls". That's the only -way to keep a 
s(!nse of self-criticism. If you don't, you'll become 
like Bernard Sha^w, believing only the nice things 
s;iid about you: and then you'll have to imitate 
yourself in order to do anything at all: and the 
critics will say you're a classic' 

if. TV. 'When you said in your letter that Re- 
rnanpjc's "All Quiet" "was the "screaming of a 
((Hible man", I immediately thought "That's Wil- 
liainson, too." I liked the book very much until 
liiill-way, when it seemed to me that the author 
had ti(;v(!r been in a battle. The battle scenes seem 
to he descfiptions from seeing a "war-film; also they 
liavc tli(^ LcnsioTi of imagined dread, of non-ex- 

7'. /';'. 'I Jik(Hl it, too, th(! first fifty pages. But it 
loses b(M;aus(' ol' its aljatulotuHl subjectivity. It's 


post-war nostalgia shoved into the war period, 
Ye-es, it has the tension of imagined dread. He was 
too young to know how to write objectively. The 
Germans suffered more than we did. Especially 
their youth in 1918, ill-fed, fathers and brothers 
dead. There'll come a strong reaction against the 
spirit of "All Quiet" very soon now, I suppose. 
They're due for a strong man of a nev^^, modern, 
quick type.' 

H. W . 'Perhaps the only really strong men are 
the weak men, self-built from complete awareness 
of themselves. ' 

T. jE. 'Strong men certainly are rare.' 

I could not help it; I began to laugh. He began 
to laugh, too, a sort of reserved laughter. Were we 
thinking the same thought, how we were both 
'doing our stuff'? Outside it rained steadily. 
The Brough-Superior motor-cycle, nickel-plated, 
gleamed below the window. 

a. W. 'I used to have a motor-bike — a Norton — 
belt-driven, no gears, long and light, less than a 
hundredweight — it would do seventy, dangerously, 
liable to speed-wobble. Open exhaust, loud noise, 
s^vank. The roads v^^ere bad in those days, red dust 
in summer, red mud in winter. It used to stand 
b<\side my bed, that old cottage over there, below the 
cluirch, ow^ls in the roof. Yours must be frightfully 

'/'. /'J. T broken tlu^ sp(!edotn(;t(!r once: it clicked, 

then it rattled, then shrieked itself to death. About 
a hundred and three, I think. Between Salisbury 
and Winchester. The bike rock-steady. I love it!' 

H. W. 'One day, soon after the Armistice, when 
at the Rest Camp on the Folkestone Lees, I and 
the Officers' Mess Sergeant, who rode a Douglas, 
composed a fake telegram to the Press Association 
in London about a race just after dawn on the Ash- 
ford-Folkestone road. I was the winner at 77 
m.p.h., he was the second at 65, and a mythical 
S. Mercier third. They printed it on the front page. 
I was authentically thrilled. I used to invent all 
sorts of things like that, too much imagination in 
riot. I console myself by thinking Shelley used to 
do the same sort of thing — many other famous 
men, too, I suspect.' 

T. E. (laughing, revealing many gold fillings in 
teeth — dental decay being a sign of past physical 
exhaustion — and giving quick glance, as though it 
had occurred to him that H. W. might have in 
mind the origin of his own legendary visit to 
Damascus in 1917): 'If one knows, and admits, the 
truth about oneself, every man will find his own 
portrait, or experience, in the revelation. The dan- 
ger is not knowing where to stop.' (A light frown, 
arvd the current diverted.) 'I think a writer should 
Illlike r('aders rather than hnd them through self- 
id(>iit.iricaLioii. Objective wi-iting lasts, for it's read- 
,il)I(' all ihe liiiK^ and in any age.' 


Conversation thereafter was so easy and stimu- 
lating that nothing of it remained in my mind; no 
hangover. I yvas hving fully. 

At one o'clock I asked him if he w^ould like to 
eat. A plan to approach the question of food had 
been made, something like this. 'The tomatoes and 
lettuces are my ow^n growing, on a foundation of 
sand and seaweed, and I can recommend the Atlan- 
tic flavour.' What I actually said was, 'Let's come 
and eat — your sort of food is our sort, too.' 

It was a happy meal. The little boy, after taking 
his fill, w^ent and stood near the guest; the two had 
made natural contact, but the guest had spoken no 
w^ord to the child. The guest had no pose, no atti- 
tude, no reserve; he yvas alert and smiling, always 
gently laughing; one knew he was all through as 
he w^as on the surface. The effect was shiningness, 
a radiation. He was natural; he thought with his 
whole being. Could he be over forty years of age? 
When he had gone — and somehow he was gone, 
and a blank feeling been left in his place — I asked 
Loetitia how old she thought he was. 'Goodness, 
I don't know^! He -was no age at all.' 'Did you like 
him?' 'Very much.' 'Would you say he w^as charm- 
ing?' 'Charming? No, that's not the word. Gra- 
cious? No, that's not the w^ord either. I can't ex- 
plain what I feel.' Nor could I. He w^as laughter, 
pure, swe(rt laugliter. 

On A^ugust 25, of thai, year, lf)29, lie wrote lie 


was working on the Schneider Trophy Committee, 
We were preparing to leave the little old dark cot- 
tage and go to a thatched house in a valley just off 
the moor by a ford in a trout stream. Shallowford 
was the name of the place, with a garden fuU of old 
cottage flowers; sweet-william, phlox, stock, wall- 
flower, poppy, marigold, and Michaelmas daisy. 
Thither migration was made in October; Loetitia, 
Windles, the new baby, the old spaniel, and the 
egocentric author. 

^'It was very pleasant to see you, and Mrs. Wil- 
liamson: and the kid! I'm always a bit sorry for 
children. We've had a hell of a bad time: so'll they, 
I suppose. Among my 1001 leave plans is a night or 
two with you in the new place: don't be alarmed. 
I can sleep on the doorstep, and your food is luxury 
itself, after the R.A.F. In 48 hours we could tear to 
pieces aU contemporary books, and begin English 
literature with a new clean sheet! 
^'Tn this camp one is always on duty: and I want 
to be able to look at and listen to trees and running 
water, at my leisure, with no whistles or parades to 
k(x;]) on interrupting.' 

in the new valley rain fell every day for three 
months and there was nothing to do except walk 
alone by the swollen river or sit indoors in the 
wrjtiug-rooin staring at trees on the hill-side sway- 
ing in the gaJ(\s. l^octitia sat in the day nursery 
downsl,a'n\s, hapivily sewing, rc^ading one or another 


of the English magazines wdth their stories unre- 
lated to life, with their dv^dndling circulations. 
During the past year several books had got them- 
selves written somehow. In a fortnight Dandelion 
Days, an autobiographically-based novel of school 
life just before the war, had been completely re- 
written, working night and day. (I remember tell- 
ing Edward Garnett this, and his reply in a Soho 
restaurant at a table where many writers were sit- 
ting, 'In a fortnight? It can't be any good, then.') 
It did not occur to me, as a mere biological fact, 
until later, that my world was futility and hope- 
lessness because I was nervously exhausted. An- 
other book had been hackwork, every word penned 
reluctantly, and with curses that it had been under- 
taken. An Australian soldier had asked me to write 
some words under a series of lino-cuts; and I had 
volunteered to write an entire book around them. 
It had been tedious work, forcing one bare word 
after another. The Patriot's Progress would have 
been published a year before the war books' boom, 
but for indolence and the appearance of yill Quiet 
on the Western Front. For when my hackwork was 
h.ilf done, I had read an advance copy of All Quiet, 
given me by the English publisher, who prophesied 
it would 'sweep the world'. This same publisher 
had urged me to cut certain passages in Tarka, 
declaring that by th(vir rcvtCMition a good scvlling 
animal hook was hcing spoiled, lie had !)liie-|)(Mi- 


ciUed the winter chapter, saying it didn't come off; 
later, 'T. E. Lawrence' had said it was the climax 
of the book, containing passages which he ranked 
with the 'orient wheat' passage of Traherne. Sit- 
ting in the garden that summer before, I had read 
half of All Quiet; and no more. It was wrong; true 
in spirit, but false in the letter. Its derived emo- 
tionalism would be accepted as the 'real thing at 
last'. Obviously it was diluted Barbusse. Le Feu, 
Goodbye to all that, Sergeant Grischa, The Enor- 
mous Room, Revolt in the Desert — these were re- 
creations of the past; All Quiet was an exhalation 
of old battlefields, not a i^e-creation of them. I 
doubted if the author had been through a battle: 
and this stuff would 'sweep the world'. I felt 
baffled every time I tried to continue The Patriot's 
Progress, which was abandoned for over a year. 

W}i(in three hundred thousand copies of All 
Quiet had been sold in Great Britain; when the 
war-boom was becoming the slump, when book- 
s(^llers were looking ruefully at the scores of unsold 
.sluir on their shelves. The Patriot's Progress was 
publislved. It had a queer reception, five thousand 
copies being subscribed some weeks before publica- 
tion; and it sold, eventually, five thousand and 
oTUi (;opi(;s. The odd copy must have been bought 


T. Iv Lawr(>nce', for another critical letter 

aT'rivcd, having 

valley life 

t lu^ (vlTeci of sunshine in the dull 


^'I have been too long, perhaps, over the Pa- 
triot's Progress: but after my first reading of it 
everybody in the Hut got hold of it, and I only saw 
it again yesterday, when I read it for the second 

^'It is all right: that is the first thing to say. To do 
a war-book is very hard now, after all that has been 
written, but yours survives as a thing of its ow^n. I 
heaved a great sigh of relief when it w^as safely 
over. I like it all. 

^'Your writing scope grows on me. This book is a 
tapestry, a decoration: the almost-null John Bul- 
lock set against a marvellous background. It is the 
most completely tw^o-dimensional thing possible — 
and on the other hand you give us your cycle of 
novels (about yourself, I dare say) which are as 
completely three-dimensional, full of characters as 
a Christmas Pudding of almonds, with the back- 
ground only occasional, and only occasionally sig- 
nificant. I am convinced, by both Tarka and the 
P.P. that you have many other books to w^rite 
before you repeat yourself and become a classic. 
^'I sandwiched the P.P. between readings of "Her 
Privates We". The P.P. is natural man, making no 
great eyes at his sudden crisis: w^hereas "Her Pri- 
vates We" shows the adventures of Bourne, a 
(pieer dilettante, at grips with normal man in 
abnormal circii instances. Th(^ two books complc- 
iiicnl, (*ach othec so well. Yours is iho firsl, (piite 


unsentimental war-book — except perhaps for its 
last page, and nobody could have resisted that kick 
of farewell. I should have thought less well of you 
without that touch of irony here and there. 
^'The incidental beauties of the book — the dew- 
drops on its leaves — are so common as hardly to be 
seen. That, I feel, is right in a book whose re- 
straint is so strong. You seem to be able to pen a 
good phrase in simple words almost as and when 
you please. You beat Bunyan there, for he got to 
the end of his P.P. without throwing in a deliber- 
ately fine phrase. I noted with pleasure . . .' 

After a 'list of deliehts' in the prose his letter 
held, obliquely, a warning. Was this the way he 
had manaeed the more difficult Ashrat and Bedu 
of the Arabian tribes needed for the revolt? ('Get 
to know . . . bv listening and by indirect enquiry. 
Do not ask questions. Get to speak their dialect of 
Arabic, not yours . . . strengthen his prestige at 
your expense before others if you can . . . never 
refuse or quash schemes he may put forward . . . 
alter praise modify them insensibly, causing the 
siiggcstions to come from him, until they are in 
accord with your own opinion. When you attain 
this })oint, hold him to it, keep a tight grip of his 
ideas, and oush him forward as firmly as possible, 
but secr-Citly, so tliat no one but himself (and he not 
loo clcN'uIy) is aware of your presence.') 
^M b(;giri to siis|)ecl, l.lial; you may hr, ori(; of those 



comparatively rare authors who write best about 
people or things other than themselves. I hope so, 
because it is the sort that lasts longest, unless one is 
a very deep man, like Dostoevsky, and can keep on 
digging down into oneself. I hope you aren't that, 
because it means misery for the artist, and the t^vvo 
roads happiness and misery, seem to be equally 
within our choice, and it's more common sense to 
be happy. 

^'Tarka and this P.P. are better than your novels, 
I think, because you get further outside the hor- 
rific convolutions of your brain in each. The objec- 
tive, as someone v^^ould probably say, which is the 
classic rather than the romantic manner. 
^'I have enjoyed the P.P. very much. The Hut 
fellows say it isn't properly named, it being not a 
"bloody bind" hke that Bunyan chap's stuff. 
"Bind" is a lovely word: mental constipation.' 

He vs^ent on to say that he was content in his 
work, sleeping well, and continuing with the trans- 
lation of the Odyssey. He hoped to finish it before 
the end of the year. 

^'I shall run out before that and see you. I swear 
it. Does not your postcard address still live in my 
breast pocket? (right breast, alas: a small pencil 
holds the honour of my heart's pocket!)' 

Later lie sent inc some of the page proofs of the 
tJ"J'li('Kc ()(]yKS('y |)ag(\s aren't sent for critici.sni: 

but to show you that no one can help in them. 
Translations aren't books, for in them is no inevit- 
able word: the whole is approximation, a feeling 
towards what the author would have said: and as 
Homer wasn't like me the version goes wrong 
whenever I let myself into it. . . . The work is not 
meant to interest you: the Homer who v^rrote the 
Odyssey "was an antiquarian, a tame-cat, a book- 
worm: not a great poet, but a most charming 
novelist. A Thornton Wilder of his time. My ver- 
sion, and every version, is inevitably small. 
^'Will I ever get to your place again? This Greek 
eats and drinks all my leisure hours. How^ever I 
have bought my Dorset cottage out of its profits, 
as provision for my years when the R. A.F. will not 
have me any more: so probably it is vs^orth while. 
^'I hope W III is a successful and howlingly suc- 
c:essful infant.' 

That summer, 1930, The Village Book was pub- 
lished. I dared to send him a proof copy, asking 
liirn not to bother to acknow^ledge or write about 
il;, but, just read in it as he liked for entertainment, 
tlie Irue function of all books. The first leaves 
l)cg;rn to fall, dry and listless, from the riverside 
aldiMS. I le did not come. Our last tomatoes ripened, 
iIk; lasL lettuces lost their freshness. I imagined him 
Willi many iViends, roaring through thousands of 
inil(\s ev(My summer montli to sec tbemj a free man 
will) enough tni forced ititcresting work to keep 


him fit and keen; the R.A.F. station a base from 
which he might, after duty, go whithersoever he 
vdshed. No responsibilities, no property except 
what he wished for, no grey hairs or thin blood 
from the biological decadence of a writer's life. He 
had merited freedom; and had it: a Bedouin of the 
English highway, with protected oasis in the R.A.F. 
For the rest of the war generation, what? We 
were powerless to make the new world: those 
whose minds were set before 1914 were still in 
power. We had no leader, only scattered and un- 
organized sharpshooters, regarded as franctireurs 
by the pre-war minded. Hope was overdrawn; 
credit almost gone. One had lost touch vsdth one's 
acquaintances; the real friends were all dead, or 
gone down under the horizon. Life was unbear- 
able in loneliness of the valley. Beautiful were 
trees and sky and the trout stream; but only for 
men with clear eyes and minds without memory 
of dead youth. And, dreaded thought, unless there 
were mental change — ^true life or awareness com- 
ing to the white-sepulchral minds of 'public opin- 
ion', the same war would arise again. I had tried to 
reveal this in The Pathway}, and had failed. I wan- 
dered by the river, alone; waiting; awaiting — . 

On impulse I bought passage to America. Was 
tlurre ho])e in the New World? T wrote to 'T. E. 
I jawf(Ui('.c', saying T was l(Niving England. As T was 
packing l,wn ruorniiigs latt^-, a i"e])ly canity 


^'It is even as you say: autumnal weather. I wish 
I knew what was the matter with me. Some un- 
formed impulse keeps me in camp. I am always 
putting in passes, and saying "I will go out this 
week-end": and when the time comes I cannot get 
into breeches and puttees, so the hike rusts in the 
garage and I moon about the water's edge in camp, 
dreaming or dipping inconsequentially into books. 

^'It has come to this, that I feel afraid and hesi- 
tant outside. The camp itself is like a defence to 
me, and I can't leave it. I think I have only been 
outside three times this summer. ... I am like a 
clock whose spring has run down. 
^'I hope you will not hate the U.S.A. So many 
|)C()|)le do, whereas it all sounds to me so strong and 
good. Canada less so, but then I like towns, be- 
cause only by contrast with cities do trees feel 
homelike, or seas look happy. 

tJf'Will they send this rot on? Probably not. Have 
|)aU(uu;e with me, when you come back, and sooner 
or Iat(u- we will meet and talk, without the bike 
wailing on the kerb outside.' 

l\nlia|)s he, too, needed friendship? Are we not 
all incMubers one of the other? There is no true 
lile, l,iuM^(; is no hope, in the little ego. I thought of 
I.Ik^ passag(^ in Shakespeare's Richard II — the 
king's farewell I — as in calm sunny v\^eather the ship 
ni()V(Ml u|) I.Ik! wide (\sLuary of the St. Lawrence. 
'I'lic ncxi, l,lnr(^ W(M'l<s w(U'(^ witli. my friend John 


Macrae at the Mastigouche Fish and Game Club in 
Quebec Province. The lakes and the trees were so 
silent there; earth and w^ater w^aiting for the ice to 
come dov\^n from the north; not a bird singing in 
the grey wastes of old forest fires. Rene, my 
French-Canadian guide, was quiet, soft-voiced, 
tubercular, thinking of the coming winter, w^hich 
he dreaded. The still brown lake waters were 
melancholy and the silver-bubble cry of the loons 
at sunset were of the spirit of vanished men, 
Indians lost to the sun, even as the friends of boy- 
hood were lost in France, and Palestine, and the 
quivering scrub hills of Gallipoli. A. poor guest, 
w^ho after the first w^eek show^ed no desire for 
portage to distant lakes where the 'big one rolled 
up last year' — ^but while the others were away fish- 
ing, lay about in the log-cabin, lolling in hammock 
and reading about fishing for brook-trout in moun- 
tain lakes of Canada, which had been the dream 
for some years now . . . but in the mind the ever- 
lasting theme recurred, the slow hopelessness of 
England's youth, Europe's youth, unled, marvel- 
lous m.aterial wasted because the inspiring force 
had not yet arisen. 

New York; the young, keen writers and critics, 
plcasantest people in the world, so eager to know, 
and understand, and share; New York, moon- 
sl,rang(^ iiroadway: sidewalk fatigue of Manhattan, 
iiiglil, and day being one, great ski(!y cliffs (jf light 


and running avenues of fire far down below. New- 
world fatigue drove out old-world weariness, and 
the symbol of the gold falcon — which was honour, 
or the soul, the only true victory of self in frustra- 
tion and defeat, began to gleam in the mind. If 
written then, it might have had celestial life, in- 
stead of the failure it became. Even so, it was not 
an exercise in self-pity; but an attempt, very 
arduous and inclamant the making of it, to create 
something out of the vacuum of the post-war 

The old bad version of The Dream of Fail- 
Women was rev^^ritten in three weeks, in an empty 
eyrie downtown, overlooking Sheridan Square. 
Let them say what they liked about a book written 
in three weeks; slashing into it hour after hour, day 
after day, night after night, one knew what was 
Ixjing done, although one didn't know how it was 
done. Afterwards, life was empty, an aimless wan- 
dering through canyons of light and noise and dis- 
intcgtation until SOS calls brought Loetitia from 
l^jngland, and home again on the dirty Leviathan. 
'J'hi! Bray ran as before, the kingfisher flashing 
a/.ure under the bridge where the spring salmon 
lay and the dipper hung her mossy nest. How was 
Ik;? Would a short letter be an intrusion, an 
aLLeiuj)t of a little man seeldng out a big man? It 
was risked. 
€|I'lVleanwlul(; I liave tcad nothing, and written 

nothing. The Odyssey is unfinished (at Book XXI 

to be exact) but my technical reports clutter up the 

pigeon holes of the Air Ministry. 

^Tn August I must take leave and waste it all in 

finishing the silly old book off. Curse. 

^'Your letter made me pump the tyres of my 

neglected bike, with a view to seeing you at once. 

Only then I read the postscript. Next Sunday — I 

mean Sunday week, the 12th? Do you think that 

would do? 

^'You will see proof that I write in working hours 

if you look at the bottom of the page before, where 

the oily wrist of my overalls has soiled the page. 

^Tt is immoral to write in working hours. 

^T vdsh I could have seen New York, without 

being seen, 

'T. E. S.' 

Again the leaves were falling from the alders, 
whose wavery images shook as trout rose in the 
quiet pool above Humpy Bridge at dimmit light. 
^T have had my annual leave, all 28 days of it, 
shut tight in a London room translating the 
Odyssey: and on the last day of it I finished the last 
book, handed it in to the publisher, and trundled 
home. Thank heaven it is done. It was on my 
ri(M'v(;s. Ot Jy I liavc wasted all my leave.' 

The Drcdiri. of h'a/.r M'^omen was a failure in both 
l'',uglaii(l and America, 1 avoided thinking of it; 
iiniir ol' \\\y a((|iiaiiitati(:e,s had, apj)ar(;ntly, l)(*en 


able to read it. I sarw a copy lying in the Rector's 
house when I called there once. Mrs. Rector im- 
mediately hid it under a cushion. A young brewer 
in the Sailing Club said, during the annual dance, 
'I read your book the other day — a damned bad 
book, if I may say so.' Being also a bit drunk, I re- 
plied in like manner, 'I tried to drink a pint of your 
beer the other day — damned bad beer, if I may say 
so.' 'I say, I like that,' he said; and I waited, hope- 
ful that at last we had something in common. We 
toasted each other; and found there w^as nothing 
left to say. 

Ah, a letter in the w^ell-known hand, Indian ink. 
IVIy faithful reader, ho^w generous a man was he! 
^'. . . a full-blooded book of men and women, 
very hot, rushing, and life-like. The characters so 
good; the places so good. Your Rats-Castle, was it? 
— a creation. Folkestone in Armistice year — ^the 
reality itself. Your men so good: all of them. The 
ch'u^r woman feels like a living being . . . You have, 
in il;, come wholly out of your ivory tower. Only in 
l\\o. tow(;r could you have written Tarka: but life is outside the tower than in. 
tJ'Doc^s the Dream finish the Maddison books? I 
suppose so. New York will have prompted you to 
iuUu-esls 8o far from your dead self. Only take my 
assurance that the Dream is very rare and fine and 


tf'l woridet- what you ar(; doing? This sorrowful 


weather shuts everyone indoors and will have made 
your Shallowford too deep to cross, all the sum- 
mer. I'm afraid of coming to see the place, with a 
name so lovely. If only you lived at Winston Mud- 
bank, the next valley to ours of the Plym! 
CJ'To tell you the truth, some reluctance holds me 
constantly in camp. Here I feel in a setting, and 
amongst likes. Outside — well, I am hasty to move 
elsewhere, always, and impatient with the com- 
pany. Camp is restful, and uniform an assurance of 
something or other.' 

Again the impulse. Go and see him! Again the 
doubt. You may be obtruding. And as for this other 
book that somehow has gotten itself written, shall 
I send that? It was dull stuff, local village details, 
small beer indeed. No, I would not send it. Then 
there was half a book, written in New York during 
the intervals of the long lonely hours of Wcdking 
about the streets of Manhattan. I had written half 
of it, then on return to England, had foolishly sent 
that half to Jonathan Cape. Half a book, it was like 
sending a half-cooked dinner. So I had exposed my- 
self to the inevitable rebuff. The pages had been 
sent to Edward Garnett, who had advised the aban- 
donment of thi! purely objective tour de force for 
the sake of both author and author's wife. The fal- 
con liad hccorru' a liarricr, tearing at the mind 
wilh ils c()(ic(sil('d thenie of God j)ursuing and 
iill/uiialcly claiMinig the pilgrim sonl. I'or uruhM- a 

" If) 


bitter scorn of organized religion many so-caUed 
moderns could not help themselves beheving m 
deity, and its manifestations in rare men and 
women. The original dedication of The Pathway 
bore this 'dedication on two planes', which later 
prudence, and experience of literary critics, caused 
to be struck out in proof. 1. To the Son, and the 
Mother, in the hope that the pathway to the Light 
lies in the sun. 2. To Zoroaster, Jesus, Paul, Shelley, 
Blake, Hardy, Jefferies, Lenin, Shaw (T. E. and 
G. B.) and many others. 

Weeks, months, of semi-emptiness, of sameness, 
in the shut-in valley life: feeding half-tame trout in 
the pool below Humpy Bridge in the deer park, 
and travelling at speed in an open car. Otherwise 
the seasons passed in silence, and again it was Sep- 
tember. Our moods seemed to be in parallel; one 
below Dartmoor, the other below Exmoor. 
^'Another year gone, and us still vdde apart de- 
si)ite one perfectly good Silver Eagle and one per- 
fectly good Brough. 

q'l spend my days and nights working on motor 
Ijoats, still, and chase aU round the English coast 
alter them or in them. Web-footed now, and quack 
Ix^l'orc^ mealtimes. 

^'I }iav<^ not written to anyone till tonight for 
inontlis. Now I }iav<^ written sixteen letters. That 
is not correspondence! but massacre, and I am 


That autumn, the pen forcing one word after 
another, The Gold Falcon w^as finished. Five 
months later, February 1955, it was published 
anonymously. A copy was specially bound and 
dedicated 'to "T. E. Lawrence", by whose taken 
thought the author added a cubit to his stature'; 
and sent to him from London, without explana- 
tion. He guessed the authorship. 
^'I've been grinning through the week-end over 
the Falcon, of which a vellum and gold copy 
reached me from Faber on Saturday. 
^'By the same post arrived a plain copy, sent me 
from an indignant reviewer, demanding to know 
why I had fathered this decadent bilge upon an 
innocent world. It's a queer world, my mistresses! 
^'The Falcon has that jumpy, nervous, stippled 
technique that you were developing in the Dream 
of Women. It fits a jazzy subject, and conveys an 
astonishing sense of movement, all through the tale. 
^'I thought old Homer duplicated too often. 
Tricks in books feel sharper than in real life. There 
are several astonishing bits of characterisation. The 
climax was perhaps your only vv^ay out of a diffi- 
culty . . . but about it I'd repeat my "tricks" re- 
marks. AH right in life, but too coloured for a tale. 
^'Wrink I didn't recognize: but all your contem- 
poraries (excc;pt l^ricistlcy, perhaps) will recognize 
themselves pnuMiingly. I [)reencd. An; my letters 
riv.\] (extracts, or li;iv(! you polisluul?' 


^'To write the day after is not wise. I can't say 
how I really regard the book. You are a long way 
from the chiselled and rather static prose of your 
beginning: and it is always good to go on, and bad 
to repeat. Only I sometimes wonder where you are 

^'They'll all call Manfred a self-portrait: but 
somehow I remember you as much more solid 
than that. I wish I could get over to you and see. 
Will they leave me in Plymouth this summer, or 
will it be Hythe, again ? 

The 'indignant reviewer' revealed himself in a 
literary weekly, a few days after 'T. E. Lawrence's' 
death, to be a Mr. John Brophy. Apparently he 
made some suggestion to T. E., possibly advising 
])rotest to the publishers of The Gold Falcon, 
which he 'disliked intensely'. In his own words, 'It 
was published anonymously, but I was so sure the 
author was Mr. Henry Williamson that I invited 
him, in my review, to take an action for libel if I 
Viail guessed wrong. I sent a copy of the book to 
"r. I'j.', because one of the characters was, to my 
rtiind, clearly intended as a portrait of him.' To the 
rcvicw(^r T. E. Shaw replied: 

€[["l'his disintegrated, exclamatory style fits its sub- 
jecL As for his contemporaries . . . Williamson 
praises all Uie ()tli(;rs, including me. Admittedly, he 
has (|MOtod l(vi,l(MS of uiitie, l)ut such harmless plain 
phrases. No I'ooni (or ohjccLion, from rue! I crop 


up, sporadically, in the books of today: always 
briefly and seldom gratifyingly. Highest marks yet 
reached — Lady Chatterley's Lover and a preface 
by Yeats to Gogarty's poems.' 

The 'indignant reviewer' further reveals him- 
self, 'I was never able to draw "T. E." on Mr. 
Bernard Shaw's private soldier in Too True to be 
Good.' And further, 'I may as well confess that . . . 
the central character in my novel Flesh and Blood 
was conceived out of my strivings to understand 
"T. E." I never claimed to understand him, though 
this ceased to distress me when I came to the con- 
clusion that he did not understand himself.' 

This plaintively opaque critic was one of the de- 
tractors of the genius of D. H. Lawrence, about 
whom he wrote witheringly after that great poet's 

And while that other man of genius is in the 
mind, one wonders how 'T. E. Lawrence' would 
have fared had he, in infancy, been exchanged with 
the infant D. H. Lawrence? Would he have grown 
up an 'escapist', frustrated man of action, ineffec- 
tual angel, all his life streaming away in beautiful 
l)rose of resurrection? And would the mature life 
of D. I[. Lawrence, reared by a gentle Irishman 
artd St rong-rrvi ruled Scots foster-mother, have been 
a sl.iiig^lc |,() (\s(;ap(; from the terrors and anguish- 
HK-nls oT childhood, and to create through art a 
world of normal, happy, liuiuaii beings? Surely 

not: D. H. L. in such circumstances of unconven- 
tional freedom would have been as intelligent, 
otherwise perceptive, as he w^as, but happier; w^hile 
T. E. L., reared in pithead poverty by parents mal- 
adjusted sexually, would have been a frustrated 
man of action, a writer of genius, but irrevocably a 
'rebel'. Probably he would have married, to com- 
plete himself; and found inevitable unhappiness in 
his marriage. When an attempt was made to dis- 
cuss this theme and illustration with John Gals- 
worthy in 1930 he replied, in a very quiet voice of 
exhaustion, 'I don't think there is any profit in the 
discussion of any literary might-have-beens.' This 
reply may have been due to Galsworthy's w^eari- 
uoss, to his dissympathy w^ith my sort of mind, and 
also to D. H. Lawrence's criticism^ of his work in a 
near scurrilous essay in a book called Scrutinies, 
wlierein a collection of young writers, most of 
them no good, attacked established elderly authors. 
^'11 March 1953. 

Cf'Your letters make me laugh, and then think 
h;ufl. You are really two entirely different people, 
and if only they could come together what a book 
w(^ should have! 

^'1 didn't answer because you said yoix were com- 
ing, and now I am soriy you may not. I am away 
frotn Tluirsday to Monday of next week, but con- 
slanliy in tli(> station for (lie rest. 

^'My K.A.I'\ lile is wry nc.-u- ils (vnd: not to let it 


gutter away I am leaving voluntarily next month. 
For what? Heaven knows. ' 

Then in April it was necessary to walk along the 
South Devon coast from the Dorset border to Ply- 
mouth, seeking material for a guide book which in 
a weak moment had been promised to a friend who 
was acquainted with a new publisher whose am- 
bition it was to guide everyone to everywhere in 
England. (The guide book developed into farce and 
parody of conventional guide books.) On Friday 
evening, after a week of lone walking, I crossed in 
the ferry from the quay to the R.A.F. Cattewater, 
and on enquiry was given a letter. 
^ 'Your letter came this morning, and there w^as no 
way by which I could catch you. So we miss each 
other. IhavejustleftforBrigmerston,nearTidworth, 
to meet a mere Brigadier; I would have put him off, 
but it's a second appointment, a "duty crew" having 
short-circuited my last trip to him. I am so sorry. 
^'Return p.m. Sunday, about 7.30 I expect: and 
here till Thursday afternoon. 

^'My R.A.F. time grows very short, and I have so 
much to do.' 

A fortnight later. May 1933. 

^' Still Plymouth! 
^' ValtMlictory note in your last letter premature, I 
liope: l.lic K.A.I'', still keep me on stretch, perpend- 
ing lo discharge nie, but hesitating: as soon as they 
know ihcii- minds, I sliall Ix; at peace again: and 


this summer I descend on Filleigh: somehow and 

^'I hope the guide went easily. Devon has lovely 
bits, but the Exmoor side is ten thousand times 
better than the S. 

^'I had a noble ride: Salisbury in 2 hours 56 mins: 
a splendid bike, this one of m.ine. I slide past 
Alvises. . . .' 

The year darkened, and just before Christmas he 
wrote again. 

^'I have a feeling you are not in England, despite 
those regular notes in the Sunday Referee. Good 
notes, too . . . 

^'My Hfe is still boats and more boats. I ami faint 
but persevering. Fourteen more months and my 
R.A.F. status ceases: alas. It is outworn already, 
l)iit will nevertheless be regretted. 
^'Lately I have re-read Tarka — and find the old 
UK) story that shocked and startled me in India. It is 
a I ine l)0()k. You could make Bradshaw interesting, 
if you edited it. 

C|'l hope my feeling that you are unhappy is not 
liiH^ ]^erhaps you have given away too miuch of 
youtsc^lf not to feci poor: and in that connexion, 
yel, aru)Lh(^r "life" of me is to appear next year. 
Only these lives by third parties are external things. 
Tbc^y do not bi'eak the skin. 
•I'Lel us iue(!t:, wIkmi we iue both free men, event- 




In the early spring of 1954 an unexpected invi- 
tation to visit Georgia came, and an imimediate 
decision to leave England. During the past year 
there had been one good thing in the valley life — 
chapter by chapter a novel about a group of pilots 
in the old Royal Flying Corps had been arriving 
from a friend of faraway schooldays who was very 
ill with tuberculosis. The book was exciting, a true 
re-creation of the past. By the sharpness of its focus- 
sing, and bite of its prose, the author had genius. I 
visited himi in London once or twice; he was very 
poor; and I knew that by the success or failure of 
his book would he live or die. He was without the 
proper air, food, quiet, and security that were 
necessary for him to build up his strength to fight 
the disease. 

T. E. was stationed at Southampton. I wrote and 
asked if he would be near the Berengaria at sailing 
time; I wanted to ask him the only favour I would 
ever ask him: to help into success the forthcoming 
book. Winged Victory, by V. M. Yeates, which 
Jonathan Cape had accepted, unread, on my re- 

^'A line scribbled in haste — my only letter to any- 
one for a long time. I am all boats-and-engines, 

ff'Yes, youi- unli;i[)|)y letter was very unhappy. I 
woiulercd if I c;oul(l do anything, and knew that 
I <;oiildn'l.. In llieend w<; ar(; all seir-coulained. 


^'I will try and see you on Wednesday, for a 
moment, if the job will ease up for a little and let 
me cross the water. In case I don't see you — fare 
you well, and come back sometime, when you feel 
you can. I'm not the only one who draws pleasure 
to himself from your 'work. 

^'I'll sound Cape about the Air book, but will not 
promise to say anything aloud about it, I've done 
so three or four times, and learned to gro^w sick, 
each time, over w^hat I've said. It's no good yawp- 
ing unintelligently for joy; and impossible "when 
joyful to cerebrate wisely!' 

The Berengaria was to sail at noon on the last 
day of February, 1934. After missing each other in 
my cabin, we both went to the gangway as the key- 
position on the boat. 

lie was standing, hands behind back, patiently, 
against a bulkhead. He wore overalls, splashed with 
wet. His face was brick-red, his eyes cornflower 
blue. He looked like an elder, more serious brother 
of tlic man I'd talked to in Ham five years before. 
A^ahi T had the illusion, formulated afterwards, 
llial, h(^ was as tall as myself, or rather, of the non- 
flilTcrcnicc in our sizes. I wondered why no one had 
r(>tnark(Hl the likeness of his face and head to Wag- 
ncr's. His eyes were an intensely deep, straight 
l)Jne. TIk)s(^ eyes saw without illusion. Something 
had gone (Vom liinij a spring uncoiled. Only deep 
siuliiess could have doiK> 


He glanced at me, then away, then back again, 
before staring direct and saying in a voice soft wdth 
slight Irish brogue, 'Is it you? You've changed. 
You're not so tall.' I thought his voice was changed; 
it had Bernard Shaw's brogue, but clearer, less 
Irish. I felt myself changing as we talked, felt my- 
self growing taller, the hollows in my face and the 
tautness on my cheekbones and temples vanishing. 

Other changes were apparent in him, too. He 
was now without shyness. His gaze was calm and 
direct, yet impersonal like the gaze of all well- 
mannered people. A paradox occurred to me: he, 
so much the spirit of good machinery, w^as an aro- 
matic oil for our machine age neurosis. And yet no 
paradox, because he was the truly modern man, 
who used machinery for enjoyraent of life, while 
loving it. 

It was so clear at this meeting how he affirmed 
sensitive people to themselves; he absorbed one's 
shell or covering, and supplied the small inner per- 
sonal light with oxygen, so that from a flickering 
glimmer it becomes for oneself a clear, bright 
flame. He took one's light from under the bushel 
measiire of 'public opinion'. Was not this the 
dr(%Tni of .Icsus, who struggled to reveal to the men 
of bis age how th(nr prejudices prevented them 
fioni seeing llic possibilities of a truly civilized 
world ol" iiien; and did not llie rul(n\s of tlu^ world 
he knew, and saw liu'ough, considtM' ihc Nazaicru; 

to be a dangerous nuisance, even a criminal, and 
after many attempts to obtain evidence by clumsy 
devices of tribute money, etc., succeed in getting 
him convicted on the capital offence of blasphemy? 
The ideology arising later from out that cruel 
death, systemized by revering minds, wsis not 
human, otherwise spiritually, true; hence boring 
sermons in church. Like Jesus, T. E. Lawrence 
had completely realized himself, he had learned the 
enormous value of being his true, or simple self. So 
his friends felt not only safe with him, but inte- 
grated. T. E. Lawrence was now an amalgam — 
quicksilver of youth blended with gold of realized 

He had thrown off the labels and theories of per- 
])lcxities of his friends and acquaintances about 
lilmself, men lesser in penetration and speed of 
sight. He had ceased to be 'a wild beast, will not 
br-eed in captivity' which Winston Churchill, that 
biilliaxit exponent of 'public opinion', had insisted 
\u) must be. Through sympathy and accommoda- 
lioM to the public opinionativeness of lesser men, 
T. Vj. Lawrence had assumed a refracting and re- 
riecl.iiig mask of multi-strangeness. Like a small 
cliild who is told it is not very strong, he had re- 
|)('aL(Hl, (!ven believed, what he had been told about 
liiniseir. Tli(;re is no man so helpless as a poet when 
his power is iioL upon him. Life flows through the 
pod; in mosL peoph; il; is clux;k(xl, or made static, 


even stagnant, in childhood or youth. Life becomes 
mere 'public opinion'. But T. E. Lawrence was 
fundamentally incorruptible; and in the end he had 
dispossessed himself of their opinions or warped 
images, and entered the strong stream of normal 
life. To speculating friends he still could say, 
obliquely, 'I am supposed to be a chameleon.' 'On 
the contrary, you are a nice green grasshopper — on 
wheels.' He laughed. He was normal. And yet 
underneath, I felt he was not happy. Nor yet, un- 
happy. He was — homeless. 'When you come back 
from America', he said, 'you must come to my 
cottage and I'll come and live in your hill-top hut 
with you, and we'll swim, and walk, and pick nuts 
off the hedges, and he on our backs in the sand- 
hills and do nothing, and think of nothing. It's no 
good thinking any more. One must do things with 
one's hands.' He half showed his hands an instant. 
'Thought is only good when it precedes action. 
Thought without action is frustration.' 

While talking with him, a young man with an 
aloof yet courteous expression on his pale face was 
moving slowly through the crowd towards us; and 
seeming, as he came nearer, to be his own ghost. 
This was a fricuid whom I saw about twice a year — 
anotlicir wanden-r, pilgrim of thought. He also was 
;, vvrilri- — lie wrol,(^ a novel about his schooling of 
which some deplorable^ ihings Avcre said and 
wrillcn by crilics -l)y (l('|)loral)le is mc^anl ;il;tllii(les 


of contempt, implied self -righteousness, scorn, and 
inaccuracy, the usual mental attitudes that cause 
periodical wars between nations, since nations are 
composed of individuals. This friend was one of the 
most gracious and understanding of men, an amus- 
ing writer with an accurate sense of character and 
scene, and above all, a light touch. 

He walked slowly tow^ards us, his old battered 
Bavarian hat stuck jauntily on the back of his head, 
his chin unshaven, his face very thin. He had come 
in his small open car, in which he roamed alone 
over Europe, a sort of motor tramp, to see me off 
to America^ and only six days before he had had an 
operation for the removal of part of the intestines: 
physical ill-health due to spiritual worry. He w^as 
still weak, but said nothing about it^ I didn't then 
know that he had been operated on. It was pleasing 
to realize that he and Shaw got on well immedi- 
ately. 'I remember your book. I read it. It was a 
good book.' Then, vnth reference to something 
said about Hugh Walpole's criticism of James 
flanley's book Boy, 'Hugh Walpole — ^what does he 
kjiow about life? He lives in a library.' Liddell 
J iart's book on 'T. E. Lawrence' had just been 
puhlished. Tie makes it all fit in: afterwards: it 
didn't liappon like that: but who will believe it 


I had brouglit half a bottle of champagne for 
.loliii 1 leyg;il;<^, iind one of tomato juice cocktail for 


T. E.; but there v^^as no time to drink them. T. E. 
said, when I mentioned the wdne, 'Thanks, but I 
daren't drink anything. One sip, and I go all 
dithery, and utter the most awful rot. ' 

The difference between these two men was a dif- 
ference in grade. Both had had 'a hell of a time'. 
Both had learned to reahze themselves in relation 
to other men; they were entirely conscious of 
themselves; but the younger man, who was thirty, 
had not yet affirmed himself. His childhood and 
boyhood, like many another of his generation, 
were deficient in parental understanding or sym- 
pathy. He was just too young for the World War 
in which 'T. E. Lawrence' became one of the 
legendary romantic figures. The sensitives of his 
generation were the Lost Generation. They had 
all the reaction of the Great War without any of 
the action; they had only the mental repercussions. 
They went 'wild' because their parents were hope- 
lessly pre-war in the post-war age. 

While we were talking, someone came diffidently 
to Lawrence and said, 'Excuse me, I'm Cunard 
Publicity, may we take a photograph, please. Of 

course I understand ifyou'd rather we didn't ' 

'It would get me into trouble,' replied T. E. 
Sliaw, indi(;al,ing his R.A.F. uniform, while Hey- 
gi,l.e ami I sl,ail,<>d to talk to each other about each 
oilier. 'Tlicy don'l, like individual publicity. I am 
s«»iiy, l)iil 1 iiuisls.iy no.' 



'Of course, sir, I understand,' and the young 
man raised his hat and rejoined two of his friends 
Avho stood by a tripod with camera and sound 
apparatus among the passengers saying good-bye to 
their friends. Eyes were now turned upon T. E. 

He seemed to be fading. He was fading. He was 
dulled out. 

'Good-bye, we'll all meet at the cottage, don't 
forget,' he murmured, shook hands limply -s^dth 
mc, and dissolved. His 'Shelley's trick of vanishing 
sviddcnly' was, I saw, a feeling induced in his com- 
panions by the sudden withdrawal of transmuted 
solar force. Things seemed to shrink — conversa- 
tion, imagination, hope — after he had gone. Hey- 

gat(; said: 

'T notice how deliberately he voids himself, for 
the; service of others, while remaining entirely him- 
seir. Tic has no eddies or backwaters of life or 
tliought about him — a streamlined mentality.' 

Soon the Berengaria was moving down the Solent 
and into the open sea. I remained av^ay until May 
1 f)54, sj)ending most of the time in Georgia and 
I'^Iorida writing the autobiography, Sun in the 
Sands, lioping thereby to slough the past and begin 
again. While there Yeates was revising the proofs 
of IVIiigcd Victory, a re-creation of life in a Camel 
scpiadron at Tz.el-le-Hamcau. He wrote letters 
which wore so shar[)ly similar to those of T. E. 

Lawrence that I sent some on to T. E., with a bag 
of pecan nuts from Augusta. 

^ 'I have spent the evenings of rather more than a 
week in delightedly reading Winged Victory, the 
Yeates book. It is admirable: admirable: admirable. 
^'. . . Special pleasures. The feeling of flight, 
when they play among the clouds, and spin the 
earth about their props. The Archie play. The 
character-drawing, of Tom and of the other 
familiar and developed pilots. The bigger his de- 
velopmcurt the better his drawing ... I take it that 
nmcli ol" iJie Ijook is reality, including the hospital 
(:h.i|)l,er\s. vSoiric of tlie men-in-the-distance I recog- 
nise, I' 

€|I' A r('gr(>l, to rac^ — the absence of the other ranks: 
hn L of course an officer never sees them. 
^'ilow fortunate the R.A.F. has been to collar for 
itself one of the most distinguished histories of the 
war! And how creditable that it deserves it."* 
^'I'm afraid the book is too late for its public, and 
that it may not be sufGciently sold to reward Yeates 
for his merit in writing it. 

^'Admiiable, wholly admirable. An imperishable 
pleasure. . . .' 

All the time in Georgia and Florida my thoughts 
wore of England; seeing the South as in a dream, 
wiiling all day in nigger pants and sun-glasses, try- 
ing l() dissolve away in thought tlic world of the 
pasi,. Ill .hnu', alUi- tny rcLurn to Devon, I wrote to 

H (jf) w.<;.i'. 

T. E. asking him to come any time he wished, 
without notice. 

^'. . , a splendid surprise. I had somehow imag- 
ined you settled in America for months. The letter, 
the cotton bale, the excellent nuts (I eat one per 
week, ritually, as I visit my cottage where they are 
stored) had all confirmed me in that feeling of your 
being gone. 

^'I dislike people going very far away. They seem 
to lose their actuality, their roots. I fancy that con- 
tact with plain men, one's equals, is a necessity for 
mental health. They "place" us. 
^T should like to come to your valley-country: 
but ... in any hours that I can snatch between the 
boats I must visit my cottage, for that half-ruin and 
wholly unfinished place must be cleaned up 
enough, by this winter, to act "home" to me in the 
spring. March next, exit of T. E. S. from the Air 
Force: very sad, I think, this freedom will be at 
first: but then it should be a safe feeling, to have 
the house to live in, without rule (I have never had 
any sort of house of my own before) and there are 
so many things I have not yet done, that I can 
hardly be lonely or bored. 

^T'm not, I think, a lonely person: though often 
and generally alone. There is a distinction. I like 
your hypothesis to explain my character, by the 
way. It has experience behind it, I fancy. For my- 
self, 1 do not know. I measure myself against the 


fellows I meet and work with, and find myself 
ordinary company, but bright and sensible. Almost 
I would say popular! 
CJ 'We shall find ourselves together soon!' 

Here I hesitate to quote further from his letters, 
because all the while I have been writing here, in 
my hill-top hut overlooking the Atlantic, in this 
sunny weather of July 1936, I have felt there has 
been, under my sadness, a feeling that the reader 
might think the writer is trying to assert his own 
linportanco, trying to publicize himself, and to 
hoosl. books that, in all probability, the reader has 
never heard of. 

On I lie radio as I write Toscanini is conducting 
a liialiiiis symphony from London, music which 
(piiekens immortal longings beyond Egypt; and in 
l.tu; leeling of the music grows a curious aw^areness 
of two men of genius I have known and are now 
dead: one a small brother of the greater — they v\dll 
live in men's minds by Winged Victory and Seven 
Pillars of Wisdom. 

So regard Williamson in this chapter of auto- 
l)ingia|)liy as just one of Lawrence's many hun- 
dreds of ac(|iiaintances and friends, most of whom 
wei-e, and are, unaware of one another knowing 
'T. Fi.' the man vvlio possessed, developed, and 
used ihe highest; genius of all — the genius of 
liiendHhip. The genius of rnondsliiii) is the eon- 
liolled nNe of sell lor llie good ol ol.liers. .losus of 



Nazareth radiated that human force: the plain 
people have remembered him for nearly two thou- 
sand years, not quite knowing why, not quite be- 
lieving 'the yarns they teir. . . . 
December 11th., 1934. 

^'I have so much the better of you: for when I 
want a talk, it is just putting out an arm and taking 
a book from my shelves. That's as it should be, at 
least; but just now I live in this house with a jesting 
name (here to watch the refit of ten R.A.F. boats 
for next season's work on the bombing range) and 
for a word with you yesterday I had to go to York 
and lay out three days' pay on The Linhay . . . 
which I have been dipping into, with satisfaction, 
all this too-rough Sunday. Too rough for a walk 
from lodgings. No clothes, poor fire for drying. 

^'What a sentence for No. I! Do you find it hard 
to begin books? Let me take down your hackles by 
two quotes from the Linhay: bad sentences P. 67 
"how heat and the floating algae . . . takes" . . . 
P. 36 "many old bucks are caught in gins which 
other-wise w^ould eat young rabbits". 

^Tt isn't fair, for I would like to write like you, 
easily or grudgingly but copiously, able to make a 
sentence of all you see and do, with a catching 
intimate; easy speech, like a man in slippers. For a 
njannercd writer, you have the best manners in the 

^'l)(Mi't vex yoiirsc'll' over Wnl])ole or Shanks or 

Hanks or Banks: or vex yourself only because \hr.y 
discourage your book-buyers. Or do they? Tlie 
best way to sell a novel was to persuade the Bishop 
of London to preach against it. I can conceive 
Hugh Walpole being second-best. I fancy writers 
get so wrapped up in their own sort of writing, 
that they find all variations from it bad. At least, 
they seem to me to make poor critics of contem- 
porary stuff. You write almost disarmingly well. 
You write better than Richard Jefferies, splendid 
fellow though he was: better for me, that is: I feel 
in<)r(> licarl, and see less eye, in you. You look for 
l.lic iiim.siial, he for the average. Of course he had 
an a vv I II I li fe. No Alvis, no country contentment, or 
coinfoii,, aiiyliow. Few concerns aside from earning, 
and IK) war to light his background. We learned a 
iol; it! those years, which makes us immemorially 
older and wiser than the old or the young. 
^'Stop burbling? All right, I'll stop. Let's get back 
to history. I am discharged from the R.A.F. (my 
lif(^, almost) next March: and cannot make even the 
gliosi; of ])Ians for afterwards. There is my cottage 
in I )()rseLsliire (Clouds Hill, Moreton, Dorset) on 
the licalli jiisL north of Bovington Camp, between 
1 )oi(liesl('r and Warelinni. I'll have to go there, 
lor my savings liav(> not hcc^n very successful; I'll 
have only li*")/- a week. So 1 must sit under my own 
i(i(»r, iind (1(1 nolliing rill I waul; l.o do sometliing. 
I:i 1 1 III I a pi ii.;.;i a nimc? 

^'I hope an Alvis may visit me, for if you ever go 
to England (sic) via S. Dorset is not much further 
than via the Plain. In my cottage is no food, and no 
bed. At nightfall there is a flea-bag, and I lay it on 
the preferred patch of floor in either room. The 
ground-room is for books, and the stair-room is for 
music: music being the trade-name for a gramo- 
phone and records. There are five acres of rhodo- 
dendrons and fires every evening from their sticks. 
It sounds to me all right for living, but then so does 
your valley — yet you often throw yourself angrily 
away from it. Well, we shall see. But bring your 
own food. I shall have no cooking. It smells in so 
small a house. A tiny house. No water near, alas! 
^'As I said, at the beginning, I have the advantage 
of you, for when I want a word with Henry Wil- 
liamson, it is only the stretching of an arm to a 
shelf. If I want him objective, there's Tarka; sub- 
jective, there's the Pathway or Falcon or Dream of 
Women. I feel greedy, at having so much of so many 
])eople (though not the half I should have had. Books 
have gone from my hands wholesale while my back 
was turned. My cottage holds only the rags of a col- 
1(h:I ion) and at liking them so much without making 
a relurn. (By the way, did I ever lend you the 
tyi)cscri[)l; of my R.A.F. book? Surely I did, poor 
n^lurn though it is.) Sometimes I sit on my chair 
aniid-sl, Lhe books, afraid to open any of them, not 
having (Mined il.. If only I could write like I read. 


^'Stop burbling again? All right, but this sea rush- 
ing and shding in my ears won't stop. My room is a 
tower-room, over the harbour wall, and the waves 
roll edl day like green swiss rolls over the yellow 
sand, till they hit the wall and run back like spin- 
ning rope. I want to walk out in the wind and the 
wet, like at Clouds Hill, and can't, for my land- 
lady's sake. 

^'Keep cheerful. And let us meet after my R.A.F. 
life is ended. 


'T. E. S.' 

A lew (lays later V. M. Yeates ('Wingless Vic- 
lor', as he signed his letters) died. I had promised 
to go and see him, two hundred miles away, and 
always something seemed to prevent it — some- 
thing of my formless self, for I was entirely free to 
come and go as I pleased. At last I set out in the 
Silver Eagle to the Fairlight public hospital near 
Hastings in Sussex; and when I arrived the matron 
said, 'Are you the friend Mr. Yeates was always 
ho]nng to see? I am sorry, but you are too late; he 
(TkmI this morning.' 

I wrote to my other friend, the faithful T. E. 
tf'lii a racing hurry: — the death of Yeates strikes 
inc as a direct loss to myself: queer, for I'd never 
incl him. Thank h(;av(;n yon got him delivered of 
ihiil hook, while he could. It would liav(; been 
liii^'ic 1(11 him, if he had died and the tale not le- 


corded. I hope some of the book-papers will see 
what has been lost. I recommend his book to every- 
body likely, as I meet them, and find a general 
agreement that it is unsurpassed, of its kind. Does he 
leave dependents, in difficulty? I hope not, for there 
is no money in Winged Victory. Too good, by half.' 
Yeates had died before he need have died; he 
lived in a foggy part of London, and hoped vainly 
for success, which would mean money to go away 
and rest and be content in mind, assured that his 
wife and children were provided for, I wrote an 
elegy for him, very much as I am doing now for 
Lawrence of Arabia, only the article on Wingless 
Victor was tragic, because circumstances were too 
irmch for him, although he never lost heart, he 
never gave way to sadness. 

^ 'Thank you [wrote T. E.] for . . . your article 
upon Yeates. I suppose it was too late: but one reads 
it with a sense of shame. He ought not to have been 
let die. The book would have helped him in time, 
for I'm sure it vsdll go to some thousands in the end. 
The big seller makes its bang and drops dead: the 
slowly growing sale lasts for years and brings in as 
nmch, eventually. I cannot see Winged Victory 
(lying short. 

^'llow about his wife and children? They are 
more iJiun half the; tragcjdy. Is there any prospect 
olbc^lp for them? 

CJ'Yoii tniisi; do soinclhitig about Yeates (this 


article or a recast of it) in your next volume of inis- 
cellanies. The picture you draw of him is very good, 
and his own letters help out your sense. The poor 
chap. I wish we had been able to do something. It 
was good of you to offer him the means to go 
south, for you haven't anything to spare. In such 
cases I fancy the south is only a last illusion, so per- 
haps he was right to say no. 

^T cannot think of anything useful at the mo- 
ment. It was (it is) so good a book. 


'T. E. S. 
^'Otie month to go! Only a month. I can feel it 
lia|)|)('tiing now.' 

'I'Ik; world knows the end of the story. But let 
me hold my thread of the tapestry of human 
friendship for a little while longer. T. E. Shaw was 
discharged finally from the R.A.F., and went to 
live at his cottage on Egdon Heath. At once he set 
to work with his hands, completing a glass-covered 
swimrtiing bath among the rhododendrons, and be- 
g inning the building of a small bungalow near it 
lot- the use of a friend, a local man who helped 
Willi [hr. gardening and work about the house: 
(hiisoc and man Friday. Was he happy? No man, 
vvoi king willi liands, is unliappy. Not for him the 
wdiiicd hrovv ol responsibility, the hollowness of 
|iiilili('iil |»(),siri(in,{> wrinkl(>(l I'onvljeads of the 
while laeeH of W I lilelia 1 1. In llie |)eak ol' his power 


he had measured himself against the world's 
leaders at Versailles; and seen nothing there, ex- 
cept selfishness, finesse, and frustration. Literary 
ambition? He had learned, swiftly as he learned all 
else, that the mortifications of authorship were 
equal to the aspiration of creation; and only the 
mortifications endured. As for fame, it was em- 
barrassment, people saying unnatural things to 
him, people staring, people being pretentious, 
people being bad-mannered, people being inquisi- 
tive, people treating him as something different, 
people's attitudes distorting him from his true self. 
He wanted to be left alone, to get on with his own 
life, to have his own friends, to use brain and body 
equally in balance; he had built his house of self on 
the rocfi of simplicity, not on the sand of personal 
ambition. He wanted to live as a boy wants to live. 
Wise man: rock-like sagacity, which word is inter- 
cliimgeable with the abused word humanity. How 
\.\\c. family man, with a hundred domestic details to 
distract and irritate him every day, dependent on 
an nnnatural practice of sitting still several hours 
oii I, of the sun, forcing his vitality into his brain and 
.siriviiig to imagine things, to be turned into words, 
words, words: for money — how he envied the free- 
dom ofT. E. Shaw! 

So Olio May morning lie flung down his pen and 
wcMil l,o 1:1 le gai-ag(^, and looked at the Jong low 
leiigl.h of lUo Alvis car, six; cylinders and three car- 


burettors, twenty-three miles to the gallon and 
eighty miles an hour, six years old, nearly a hun- 
dred thousand miles of life, and running sweet as 
the west wind. Better first to send a letter: or 
simply to turn up: which? He wrote a letter. Now 
this was quite an occasion, he thought — perhaps 
the beginning of a friendship that . . . for it was 
time something was done about the pacification of 
Europe through friendship and fearless common 
sense. The spirit of resurgent Europe must not be 
allowed to wither, to change to a thwarted rage of 
power. With Lawrence of Arabia's name to gather 
a luccLing of cx-Service men in the Albert Hall, 
wilh his presence and stimulation to cohere into 
nnassailablo logic the authentic mind of the war 
genciation come to po"wer of truth and amity, a 
whirlwind campaign which would end the old fear- 
ful thought of Europe (usury-based) for ever. So 
that the sun should shine on free men! 

He must go at once to Egdon Heath and tell the 
only man in England who could bring it about. So 
lie wrote a letter saying he would arrive, 'unless 
rainy day'. 

'I'h(^ answer came by telegram. 
€|'l 1.25 a.m. 15 May 1935 
'Williamson SliallowFord Filleigh 
'Lnnch Lucsday wet line cottage 1 mile north 
liovinglon ( /am|) 


Returning on his motor-cycle from the Camp 
post office, whither he had gone specially to send 
that telegram, 'T. E. Lawrence' crashed and broke 
his head, and knew nothing more, save of strange 
suns beyond Arabia, beyond the human shores of 
the world. 

While he lay unconscious in the small military 
hospital of corrugated iron at Bovington Camp — 
the body with bound head was being turned over 
and tilted every hour in the hope of running off 
saliva and phlegm which was congesting one lung 
— many newspaper men waited there. At first all 
information, although there wasn't much to give, 
was withheld from the press: causing, ironically, 
1,1 k; opposite of what his friends and relations de- 
si icid — an intense interest in T. E. Shaw's condi- 
LioM, in his cottage, in his recent life. Had he re- 
(;(>v(;r(^d and become normal once more, an ordi- 
nary unmolested life at his home would have been 
i in|)()ssiblc. Everyone in England knew of that cot- 
Lagc. Once started, the news-value of the accident 
increased like a snowball rolled down a white slope. 
'I 'Ik; more |)opular, wealthier newspapers began to 
(:()m|)el;e for sensational m^aterial. The popular 
1 ;()iuloji daily which had always been first to ])ur- 
sik; hlrn, catue oiiL wilh a front-page story of 
'Si range Tales' — 'wild spcuvulations' — 'I^^awrence 
IK)!, ill liospilal al. all'- 'a Irick while \io slij)s out of 


England on a secret service mission' — 'mysterious 
heath fires near his woodland cottage, set ablaze by 
sinister agents of foreign chancelleries' to destroy 
his 'secret books and papers' — 'Britain in peril if 
Lawrence dies, for in his brain alone are stored our 
war plans'. The smart daily, after enumerating 
these 'local rumours', then declared itself 'able to 
give a categorical denial to them'. That was not 
difficult, since they had been raised up in order to 
fall flat only in its flamboyant columns. 

Some of the war friends of Lawrence of Arabia 
— for that name is now history — foregathered in 
vigil on the dark brown heath of pine and gravel 
and rliododendron, and on the Saturday of their 
hc^ro's crisis the newcomer saw, with a slight shock, 
faces known before only in Seven Pillars of Wis- 
dom, but tempered by the years' thought and quiet- 
ness, men who looked back through the desert of 
Time to that which always shone brighter in 
lengthening memory. After greeting, it seemed fit 
that the newcomer, from another world, should 
travel on. 'He will recover,' they said. 'Yes, he will 
r(!Cov(;r.' It seemed that he could not die; other 
men died, but not Lawrence of Arabia. But in the 
night, iIk; |)ulse suddenly lost itself, and recovered 
ill alarm, irregularly. Oxygen and injections of 
lulrenaliii wen- giv(>n the body; the mind was 
(ilreiidy gone. In llie iiiornirig the ])nlse had sunk to 
II (rirkle, 's<iii(v iiolatiiig llie passing of time', and 


they knew his hour was upon him. That was a 
moment of deepest shock: the strong, proud star 
falling from its orbit. Now his spirit was fighting 
for its final freedom. 'In the end we are all self- 
contained.' A few minutes after eight o'clock, on 
the 19th May, 1935, there was a check in the 
struggle, the least fluttering sigh. So he died; and 
is immortal with the shining of the sun upon 
'plain men, his equals'. 

Shallonford, 19)6